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Chamber Music
Rashomon Quartet

The Seagull


7 Encounters

Theme & Conversations for Orchestra

Symphony Erotica

The Little Match Girl

Choral Prophecy

Symphonic Choral Prophecy

Piano Music
Three Piano Pieces

Eyes on The Mountain

Christopher Donison
Symphony Erotica

in 12 overlapping movements
duration: Total 35:00

Part I: Aries: synonymous with existence itself
Part II: Taurus: unknowing acceptance and return
Part III: Gemini: something more thrilling
Part IV: Cancer: the need, above all else
Part V: Leo: shimmering romance, the song of songs
Part VI: Virgo: vaguely sensing the passion that lies ahead
Part VII: Libra: infatuated with beauty
Part VIII: Scorpio a consuming flame
Part IX: Sagittarius: bold and fearless
Part X: Capricorn: temptation of forbidden passions
Part XI: Aquarius: intellectual but exhausting
Part XII: Pisces: extravagantly gorgeous float to ecstasy in an ineluctable rhythm

."....As I watched the music being performed by the varied group of musicians, my emotions fluctuated with every change in tone. I was excited, passionate, and then timid. All of my emotions seemed to run into each other ó never was I left with only my thoughts, keeping in tune with the style of Donison's symphony"

Tuesday January 19, 1999. Arts and Entertainment

instrumentation: 2222 / 4231 / timp+2perc / hrp / strgs

The symphony is based on the eros characteristics of the twelve birth signs of the calendar. Written in twelve corresponding movements that overlap, it is constructed so that although each movement is a stand-alone piece of music, any number of movements can be performed in sequence. so that the overlapping portions can be called cusp-music...

    I   Aries 
       duration: 2:15    

    II  Taurus     
       duration: 2:39     

    III   Gemini     
      duration: 1:90     

    IV   Cancer     
      duration: 3:56     

    V   Leo     
      duration: 4:45     

    VI   Virgo     
      duration: 2:35       

    VII   Libra     
      duration: 3:18     

    VIII   Scorpio     
      duration: 1:42     

    IX   Sagittarius     
      duration: 2:02      

    X   Capricorn     
     duration: 3:18      

    XI   Aquaries     
      duration: 2:36      

    XII   Pisces     
      duration: 4:20     

notes by the composer

The title of this work was not intended to draw attention. It seems, however, that it might not be unavoidable. The word erotica has an immediate connection with us because it touches on one of the most powerful aspects of the intuitive realm of the human experience.

It has been an operating idea of idea mine for some time that the new music of much of this century has drawn too heavily from the intellectual realm and not enough from the intuitive realm in the creative process--and that the equal presence of both is what is needed to create great music. I believe it is the simultaneous operation of both that allows for the creation of music that is at once both unpredictable and inevitable.

Now, of course, you probably think that I am writing these program notes at a Club Med somewhere in the Mediterranean where I am busy carrying out the necessary research for this project. That is not the case. But if you find your imagination running wild , then I need not explain any more what a source of inspiration this powerful intuitive realm can be. The symphony is based on the erotic characteristics of the twelve birth signs of the calendar and is written in twelve corresponding movements that overlap so that the overlapping portions can be called cusp-music...

New music is changing . Music does communicate: it communicates with the future, past, and present generations reflection, inspiration, & hope. More than anything, the return to a desire to communicate in new music represents a return to hope. It is a reemergence of the human spirit.


"Erotica Stimulating"
Donison makes four seasons pleasurable

" Donison maintained a unique flow of harmony, blending skill and passion and dispersing it to each musician. excellent array of tempo, pitch, dynamics and tone, which, in turn, provided an intense blend of listening delight.... ....prepared the audience for the magnificent debut of Donison's symphony. ......As I watched the music being performed by the varied group of musicians, my emotions fluctuated with every change in tone. I was excited, passionate, and then timid. All of my emotions seemed to run into each other–– never was I left with only my thoughts, keeping in tune with the style of Donison's symphony.

Monday, January 18, 1999
Kingston Whig Standard

New Symphony delights Grant Hall audience
      by Ian Revell

On Friday Night, Grant Hall was the site of a provocatively titled new work, Symphony Erotica, by the Canadian composer Christopher Donison . Donison was guest conductor for the entire programme, which also featured the Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus, by Beethoven, and Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. Symphony Erotica, is in its design, a very ambitious work. It has 12 movements, each meant to signify a different astrological sign. These are grouped into four sections of three movements each, which overlap each other. These short segues create what Donison calls "cusp music", brief moments where the music of two signs comes together. The music is very descriptive, and in different ways, Donison helps the listener to imagine the creatures associated with each of the astrological signs.


Aries, the first movement, has a sunny pastoral feeling to it. The movement is reminiscent of Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un Faune, and in an amusing moment near the end of the movement, two bassoons imitate the baaing of a ram! After this fairly light-weight beginning, the symphony becomes more passionate as it moves along. In Taurus, the music becomes much more dynamic, with the brass section conjuring up the idea of a Spanish bullfight. The second grouping of short pieces was particularly effective, and begins with Cancer, which was marked by a haunting repetitive pattern played on the xylophone. This gave way to Leo, which features a beautiful passage in which the strings play in unison underneath a solo French Horn, and closes with Virgo, which has a softer breathy feeling. By far the strongest element of Symphony Erotica is the orchestration. Donison is clearly a composer who knows how to use the sonic qualities of the different instruments to their best advantage.

He alternates and blends the different sounds masterfully, making the instruments "speak" together in a candid and knowing way. There were many moments when the orchestra literally sparkled under his direction.

A number of excellent solos were featured, for which the credit should be given in particular to Jennifer Weeks (oboe), Gordon Craig, (clarinet), and Greg Runions, whose tympani solo provided a rousing beginning to Capricorn.


The missing element might not even be a musical one. For example, I could easily envision Symphony Erotica as splendid music for a ballet. The visual component would easily make up for the lack of focus in the music. Who knows– this may even be the composer's long term plan. He has held the position of Music Director at the Shaw Festival for 11 years, which would certainly indicate a stage background strong enough to pull it off. That would definitely be a show worth seeing. Funnily enough, some of my criticisms were answered by the end of the evening. Just as I was thinking about the need for dancers, during Sagittarius, ( a particularly dynamic movement), something remarkable happened. Two members of the clarinet section set down their instruments, jumped out of their chairs, and started kissing each other passionately, causing the entire trombone section to stand up and stare at them disapprovingly! This was followed by other members of the orchestra, jumping out, acting out, and responding to each other in absurd ways, smashing the formality of the concert to bits. The delight of the audience at this bit of choreographed nonsense was so palpable, that I was surprised that they were able to hold their applause until the symphony ended three movements later. To close the piece, Donison finally gives the listener something to dwell on. Pisces, a slow, meditative piece, was by far the most understated of the twelve movements.


With an entrancing, repeated motif in the strings reminiscent of Gorecki, it served as the essential still point for the listener, helping to draw the rest of the symphony into focus. It is commendable of the Kingston Symphony to commission new work like this. Unfortunately, in this day and age, a world premiere is often the only exposure a new concert piece gets. If you want to listen to Beethoven or Schubert, you can always buy a CD. But if you want to hear what's happening now, you have to be there when it happens. As the second curtain call turned into a standing ovation, it was clear that the crowd in Grant hall was glad they were there.

Premiere Programme

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